Don't listen to dad!

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
William Miller was MD of a television production company at the age of 25. Kay Smith found out how

Now 34, with a decade and a half in the TV industry under his belt, William Miller will go out of his way to advise young people on the dos and don'ts of pursuing a media career.

Looking at his own career, the first "do" would seem to be ignore your father's advice. Jonathan - the senior Miller, renowned for his theatre, opera and TV direction to name but a few of his roles - was keen that his son should pursue the medical career he himself had abandoned.

But William Miller failed all his A-levels, and he refused to do any resits. He wanted a job and he started at the bottom. He did anything, from making tea to taking messages. It was this lack of conceit that now enables him to caution media studies students against any arrogant reluctance to get their hands dirty in a similar fashion. "It's no good saying, 'I've got a degree. I'm not prepared to do that.' You need to learn the basics."

Many of those who aspire to jobs in the media tend to look at roles such as researcher and director - positions with little job security and where demand for openings outstrips supply. Miller stresses that students would do well to consider jobs such as set-building or art direction.

And if you think that the way in to TV would be with that one bright idea, think again. "Devising an idea for a TV programme is a very skilled job, " he says. "There are, in any case, very few really good ideas around." Send in your CV instead.

No one at Uden Associates has a media studies degree, but Miller does not dismiss the subject out of hand. However, he feels that students should shop around more for courses. Avoid those too heavily weighted towards theory, and check if the course lecturers have any practical experience. And does the course accommodate visiting speakers from within the industry? Work placements are vital.

Miller singles out for particular praise Leeds University's BA in broadcasting studies, which allows for a six-month work placement. Uden takes two of its students each year.

Miller also recommends the Television and Young People event, part of the annual Television Festival. It is, he says, "a fantastic opportunity to meet a wide range of people involved in television".

And practise that great art of being able to tell a story. "If I was a media studies lecturer," Miller says, "I'd tell my students that their homework each night for the first six months would be to write a story."

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